Friday, November 12, 2010

Film depicts friendship between Orthodox Jewish and Muslim women undergoing arranged marriages

Two young single women start teaching in a Brooklyn public school, working for a principal (Marcia Jean Kurtz) who is big on personal sharing and camaraderie among staff. One, an orthodox Jew (Roshel Meshenberg, played by Zoe Lister Jones), and a Muslim (Nasira Khaldi, played by Francis Benhamou), team-teach classes together (at one point telling each kid to label himself with one word) and gradually discover each is facing severe family pressure to consent to arranged marriages. Such is the setup of the 2007 film “Arranged” from FilmMovement and Cicala Filmworks.

The pressure on Roshel is especially awful. The mother blames her for her father’s high blood pressure and harm to her sister. She’s being “selfish” by resisting. She’s supposed to be responsible for people she did not procreate.

Imagine, also, what it would feel like to be a man being vetted (behind your back) as a future “husband” The most important and intimate experience of your life is manipulated to serve the needs of other family members.

Originally, the principal, who is a bit of a radical feminist after all, tries to intervene.

The film is directed by Diane Crespo and Stefan C. Schaefer.

At the very end, both friends has a kid, and they share reflections on a park bench.

The “Making Of” featurette notes the challenges of filming in the Orthodox community, including kosher observance.

The website for the film is here.

The Raft” (“Das Floss”) is included as a 2004 short on the DVD. Directed by Jan Thuring, the animated film depicts two men isolated on a raft at sea, making amends and then fighting, sending one overboard. A seagull visits, teasing them with a dropped fish, and there is some justice at the end. It reminds me of the opera “The Raft of the Medusa” by Henze. The site is here.

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